Guest Editorial by Vincent Francia
Vote for Walmart

September 23, 2009

Don’t repeat the mistake with Home Depot

vince franciaOn November 3, Cave Creek voters go to the polls to decide whether or not to support a general plan amendment and rezoning of 20 acres of land near the intersection of Cave Creek Road and Carefree Highway. The outcome of the vote will determine what path the town’s future will take.

One path, a Yes vote on 400 and 401, leads to commercial development and a business that will produce revenue for the town.

The other path, a No vote, eliminates the prospect of valuable revenue, causing town residents to seek unpopular alternatives.

As human beings need food to sustain their lives, so a community requires economic sustenance for its citizens’ welfare. Just look around at communities throughout the state and nation, struggling for revenue. Or, look at our state legislators and governor tussle to resolve a $3 billion deficit.

Governments both large and small have but two options: grow businesses and cultivate an economy or impose more taxes on the citizenry. I am a proponent of the first solution: diverse economic growth.

Walmart would like to come to Cave Creek. I do not predict their sales or forecast what tax revenue they might produce for the town. However, having a business with Walmart’s potential is better than considering unpopular alternatives.

An example of what Walmart would provide: Cave Creek citizens need to buy food; currently all our purchases take place in supermarkets located in three neighboring jurisdictions. Walmart, too, offers groceries.

Based on an estimated 2.6 people per household spending a very conservative $100 per week per household, yields a Cave Creek annual expenditure of $9.4 million to feed ourselves. If we all shopped for just groceries at Walmart – of course, not all of us would – that $9.4 million expended translates into sales tax revenue of $282,000 for the town.
Up until January 2008, Cave Creek’s revenue stream, comprised of construction tax and development fees, was flowing fine. It met our financial/infrastructure needs and allowed us to fund worthy community-based non-profits and initiate trails projects and the Historic Core streetscape, among others. When the economy tanked, residential/commercial development abruptly stopped, as did the revenues they produced.

At the Mayor’s request a group of 12 citizens assembled to address immediate and long range solutions. Their contribution, known as the White Paper, made 22 recommendations, summarized in one theme: Cave Creek’s economy must diversify. We can never again allow our revenue welfare to be dependent on a single source.

Critics have inferred that Walmart threatens the Historic Core. Pause to notice that current Carefree Highway businesses do not endanger the eclectic entrepreneurs of our downtown. Our local business owners are doing everything they can to support the town. An overwhelming majority of them welcome Walmart to the community. Is that the mind-set of a group that feels threatened?

Several years ago Home Depot sought to locate at the intersection, on already zoned commercial land. Some citizens made a fuss, saying this business would change Cave Creek. Not feeling welcome, Home Depot located less than a half-mile from the intersection and is in fact less than two-tenths of a mile from the town’s jurisdiction. We all know where Home Depot is because we all shop there.

If the Council’s decision to support the general plan amendment/rezoning is not upheld, Walmart will go right across the Cave Creek border to the south into Phoenix and set up shop there. It will be a missed opportunity – again! Walmart, like Home Depot, will be in the neighborhood. We will all shop there, but the town will not benefit. This makes no sense, especially in these uncertain economic times.

Opponents contend that the 20-acres purchased by Walmart is residentially zoned land. True. Just like the land on which Lowes, CVS, Chevron, Home Depot, Fry’s and adjoining businesses were once residentially zoned lands. They went through the same general amendment/rezoning public process in their respective municipalities. Another thing these businesses have in common is the Cave Creek Road-Carefree Highway intersection, a location already being used for commercial activity and best suited for that purpose.

A current fear being spread by these same opponents is that Walmart will change Cave Creek. Ask this question: Have existing businesses on/near the intersection changed Cave Creek? While all these corporations have been conducting business over the years, Cave Creek has quietly preserved 9,600 of 24,000 total acres. Meaning, 40 percent of the land within town jurisdiction is preserved open space. Would anyone argue against that being good for the town?

Walmart won’t change Cave Creek. Cave Creek will change Walmart.

Vote Yes on 400 and 401.